The Boy Scouts of America’s attempt to come out of bankruptcy appeared to fail on Tuesday when a $ 2.7 billion settlement offer failed to garner enough votes from thousands of men who say they were abused sexually in scouting.
Although 73% of the nearly 54,000 plaintiffs who voted voted to accept the settlement, the proposal needed at least 75% to ensure confirmation by the bankruptcy judge presiding over the case, according to plaintiffs lawyers. .
“The survivors understood that the plan was not compensating them adequately,” said John Humphrey, co-chair of the official tort claimants committee appointed by the bankruptcy trustee to represent all victims.
The committee said the results would force the Boy Scouts to negotiate a better deal for abuse survivors. The Boy Scouts did not respond to a request for comment.
The results, leaked Tuesday night in bankruptcy court, ended a controversial two-month voting period in which lawyers for the plaintiffs clashed, with some hailing the settlement as the best possible deal for more than 82,000 applicants, while others denounced it as woefully inadequate.
Voting began in October and ended December 28 on the plan, which would be the largest proposed sexual abuse settlement in U.S. history.
The Boy Scouts of America and its local councils had agreed to contribute approximately $ 820 million of the proposed settlement amount, with nearly $ 1.6 million from two major insurers and $ 250 million from the Church of Jesus- Christ of Latter-day Saints and other sponsoring organizations. . They include the Methodist congregations, which have agreed to shell out $ 30 million.
Even that historically significant total would have yielded only “pennies on a dollar” of the real value of the claims, according to opponents, who argued that it got the Boy Scouts and others off the hook. billions more in damages.
The settlement would also have freed the Boy Scouts and other contributors from civil liability for sexual abuse that occurred before the bankruptcy.
U.S. bankruptcy judge Laurie Selber Silverstein, who chairs the Chapter 11 reorganization, has scheduled a confirmation hearing in Delaware bankruptcy court for February 22. It was not immediately clear how the results of the vote would affect the audience.
Tuesday’s report on the vote comes just under two years after the Boy Scouts filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2020 to avert a growing wave of sexual abuse lawsuits. The bankruptcy ended hundreds of lawsuits to allow the negotiation of a comprehensive settlement. It also required that new abuse complaints be dealt with there rather than in state courts.
A researcher hired by the Scouts to analyze his internal files in 2019 identified 7,819 alleged attackers and 12,254 victims – a fraction of the number of people who filed complaints.
As of November 16, 2020, the deadline set by the court for filing complaints, more than 92,000 have been submitted, including many accusers recruited by law firms through television and internet advertisements. Some 10,000 claims were then eliminated as duplicate deposits or otherwise invalidated.
The massive response far exceeded all expectations. Lawyers for the plaintiffs predicted that the number of claims and the total payments to settle them would easily eclipse those of the sex abuse scandal that engulfed the American Catholic Church more than a decade ago.
At the time, Scout leaders called the massive response “heartbreaking” and apologized in a statement.
“We are devastated by the number of lives affected by past abuses in Scouting and moved by the bravery of those who have come forward,” he said. “We are heartbroken that we cannot mend their pain… We are deeply sorry. “
Scouts also called the reorganization plan a “critical step” to fairly compensate survivors of abuse while continuing to carry out its mission.
The Tort Claimants’ Committee estimated last month that the settlement would average $ 28,000 per claim.
Some claimants would be paid more, others less, depending on a number of factors, including the severity of the abuse and where it occurred. Overall, the committee said, the settlement “would not capture the billions of dollars” owed to claimants.
“In a case involving horrific child abuse, average payments of around $ 28,000 fail to begin to fairly compensate survivors,” said Richard Pachulski, one of the committee’s lawyers, contrasting with a settlement recent with USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee. , which will pay approximately $ 800,000 each to some 500 survivors of sexual abuse.
He and others who opposed the plan say its main proponent, a coalition of mass liability law firms, has opted for opportunism in making arrangements with Boy Scout insurers.
Lawyer Ken Rothweiler, co-founder of the Coalition of Abused Scouts for Justice, which has 18,000 members and says its affiliated law firms represent more than 63,000 clients in connection with the bankruptcy, said in a video conference last month he had gone to great lengths to negotiate the historic settlement.
“We will never get enough money to compensate all survivors appropriately, because no amount of money can… compensate survivors for what they went through,” he said. “But our job as lawyers is to build as much money as possible, and that’s what we’ve done and that’s what we will continue to do.”